When was the last time you heard someone who spoke with authority? Someone whose combination of words and posture moved you to either act or reflect on what they were saying. Their words stirred something within you that caused a change in you. It could have been anyone, a family member, a politician, a teacher, employer or yes even a priest or a deacon. It could have been a planned speech, spontaneous speech, or just an off the top of the head one on one private conversation. But something registered deep within you when you heard them. Something registered in you that made you do something you would not have considered doing.
I am not talking about a charismatic personality that attracts one to blindly follow. I am not talking about a personality. I am talking about someone whose belief is so strong that their words convict you to correct a wrong. They could be ordinary men and women or renowned figures. What they possess is a sense of knowing something must change. A few past personalities and their words come to my mind – Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream speech” – Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg address” – Winston Churchill’s “we will never surrender” – Ronald Regan’s “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall” – John XXIII’s “new Springtime for the Church” as he opened Vatican II. All of those individuals inspired people to good and changed history.
I know there are un-named individuals whose words of counsel, comfort, advice or even correction have had an impact on all of us. I heard a young man recently at the funeral of his grandfather stand up and speak of how his grandfather’s guidance helped him get his life right. My brothers and sisters, wouldn’t it be great that at the end of our lives if one person said we helped them get their life right.
Today we hear about how Jesus taught with authority and not as the scribes. We all know where Jesus’ authority came from and why he was able to have such an impact. But what about us, what impact are we having on leading others to get their lives right? Unfortunately, we as a people have managed to compartmentalize and separate our spiritual lives from our other life. Jesus said, the father and I are one. They were one, totally in sync with each other and the Spirit. Take a minute and reflect on how in sync is your spiritual life with every other activity you do each day.
The scribes and Pharisees were in their minds doing exactly what God expected of them. They did even more than what was expected. They also had no problem letting the people around them know how much more they were doing. Yet their words had little impact, “he speaks with authority not as the scribes.” Are our words and action in sync with what we profess and believe? Do we believe we can live one way during the week and then one day or a few times a week do “holy” things? Can we be part time disciples and still have an impact on others?
My brothers and sisters, God’s word has the power to change minds and hearts. His word can change us so dramatically that we become new creations. God said through his prophet that he would give us new hearts. Hearts so focused on God that we will automatically follow the law to love God and neighbor. Think about it the Pharisees were law followers. The truth is anyone can follow the law if they choose to follow the law. I have seen kids follow their parent’s rules while at the same time their posture is one of defiance.
If the words of Jesus were that powerful then why don’t we embrace the word of God and let it change us now? Do you realize that of all the Christians in the world, we as Catholics rate last in our knowledge of the bible?
This one thing I do know – no other speech I have ever heard can move me as much as the inspired words of Paul or the Sermon on the Mount. No other speech has the power to change lives and history than those of Jesus and the inspired word of God in all the books of Scripture. We seek those words to comfort us during our funerals, we look to them when we are hurting, we sing them to calm our spirits and we trust them to guide our lives.
Let us step back and listen more intently to God speaking to us through his Holy Spirit by our own encounter with Jesus in the words of Scripture. Immerse yourselves in the words of scripture by reading it to discover the love and mercy of God. Then become one with the Word to discover our own voice and to use it to proclaim that God reigns in our home, in our lives, in our church.